Jakarta. The new religious affairs minister has indicated that the Baha’i religion should be the seventh religion to be recognized by Indonesia as an official faith.
“Baha’i is a religion, not a sect,” Lukman Saifuddin tweeted from his Twitter account @lukmansaifuddin on Thursday. “There are 220 believers in Banyuwangi, 100 in Jakarta, 100 in Medan, 98 in Surabaya, 80 in Palopo, 50 in Bandung, 30 in Malang and in other regions.”
Lukman said he made the comment as a result of a letter sent by the Home Affairs Ministry requesting clarification about the religion.
“I told [the Home Affairs Ministry] that Baha’i is a religion protected by articles 28E and 29 in the Constitution,” Lukman said.
He added that adherents of the faith should be entitled to identify themselves as such on their national identity cards — and that recognition would make it easier to obtain necessary documentation, such as driver licenses, birth certificates, marriage certificates and land deeds.
Some local governments take a hard line against minorities in Indonesia by holding up various permits to individuals if they do not select one of the six religions recognized by Indonesia — Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism and Hinduism.
Baha’i is a religion that combines syncretism with its own distinct monotheistic tradition. It was founded by Bahaullahin in 19th-century Persia and has around 5 million followers worldwide today.
Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said his ministry would wait on the Religious Affairs Ministry before reviewing whether Baha’i would be included as an option on identity cards.
“If it is stated as part of the religions acknowledged here then we will put it on their identity card,” Gamawan said on Friday as quoted by jpnn.com. “”If there is to be an addition [to the existing six religions] please inform us, because there are only six options of religion on the identity card.”
The Baha’i secretariat in Indonesia refused to comment on the issue, saying that the Baha’i assembly had not discussed it.
“There are thousands of Baha’i followers in Indonesia, but there’s no exact number,” Rias, the staff of the secretariat told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.
The deputy secretary of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Amirsyah Tambunan called Bahi’a a sect and said it should not be recognized.
“Clearly, I say Baha’i cannot be categorized as religion,” Amir said, adding that religions should be sourced from a revelation, such as the Abrahamic faiths.
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chairman of Setara Institute — which advocates religious freedom — told the Globe that the government should acknowledge every religion.
“The Constitution never mentioned official religions — it only said that people are free to hold a religion or belief and worship according to their religion and belief,” he said. “The problem is with the Religious Affairs Ministry, which in this case being exclusive and discriminative.”
Bonar said that without the recognition from the government, the believers of those outside the six religions, such as Baha’i and Sunda Wiwitan, have been and will continue to be prone to discrimination.
“Some years ago, a believer of Baha’i was arrested in Lampung because he was accused of spreading heresy,” Bonar said. “In another case in Central Java, people refused to bury a Baha’i follower in their village. There are also many cases when the civil registry office refused the marriage registration of believers outside the six religions. Some population administration offices forced them to choose one of the six religions.”